Read below some common questions about truck accidents.
Is a Big Truck Crash Case Different Than a Car Crash Case?
Absolutely. Big truck crash cases that involve tractor-semi-trailers, tankers, dump trucks, big straight trucks, and tourist buses are much different than car crash cases. And, how these cases are best handled by the injured person’s attorney is much different than car crash cases. Loaded tractor-trailers can weigh 40 tons or more. Big trucks are massive in weight and size, slow to accelerate, slow to bring to a stop, and difficult to maneuver. These crash cases involve investigation of the driver, the motor carrier, and the vehicle at a minimum. There are numerous state and federal regulations that apply to these big commercial vehicles, but not cars. An experienced and knowledgeable truck crash attorney is most suited to represent persons injured or killed in a crash involving a big truck.
What Type of Legal Claim is a Big Truck Crash Case?
Big Truck crash cases are negligence cases. All truckers and motor carriers must use reasonable care in the operation and maintenance of their trucks. The truck driver and motor carrier must obey all traffic laws, all state and federal motor carrier safety regulations, all industry “rules of the road” set forth in each state’s commercial driver license manual, in company driver training materials, in company policies, and in industry-recognized defensive driving materials. If the truck driver or motor carrier violates one or more of these safety standards, then the motor carrier is liable for the injuries, harms, and expenses caused to other motorists.
How Can I Investigate a Big Truck Company?
The trucking industry is regulated and monitored by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (“FMCSA”). The FMCSA grants operating authority to an interstate motor carrier only after certain requirements are met and the company states under oath it is fit, willing, and able to comply with all federal motor carrier safety regulations. To check out a particular motor carrier, you will need the name or the U.S. DOT number for that company. Then, go to www.fmcsa.dot.gov. On this home page, in the proper box, enter the company name or U.S. DOT number. This will bring you to a page called the Safety Measurement System (“SMS”). There you can obtain a Complete Company Profile, a Company Snapshot, and Company Licensing and Insurance Information. This website will provide a lot of safety information and history about this particular motor carrier.
What Are the Hours of Service Rules for Over-the-Road Interstate Truck Drivers?
Before an over-the-road interstate truck driver begins the on-duty cycle, the driver must have been off-duty for a minimum of 10 hours. The driver may remain on-duty for the next consecutive 14 hours, but may only actually drive a maximum of 11 hours during the 14 on-duty hours. Before driving for 8 hours, the driver must take a 30-minute break. In any 7-day period, the driver may be on-duty no more than 60 hours. In any 8-day period, the driver may be on-duty no more than 70 hours. If the driver exceeds these hours of service limitations, and a wreck occurs due in part to driver fatigue, distraction, or inattention, then safety regulations have been violated and likely contributed to the cause of the wreck.
What Topics Are Included in a State’s Commercial Driver License Manual?
Every state is required by the FMCSA to issue its own Commercial Driver License Manual. These manuals are normally free to the public and may be located easily by a Google search. The Table of Contents topics often includes Driving Safely, Transporting Cargo Safely, Transporting Passengers Safely, Air Brakes, Combination Vehicles, Doubles and Triples, Tank Vehicles, Hazardous Materials, School Bus, Vehicle Inspection, Basic Vehicle Control Skills Test, and On-Road Driving.
Who May Be Liable For A Big Truck Crash?
Of course, not all big truck accidents are the fault of the truck driver. Other motorists also cause big truck crashes. But if it appears the truck driver or motor carrier was at fault, then who are the responsible parties? The truck driver or his or her motor carrier may be at fault for negligent driving, violations of state and federal motor carrier safety regulations, negligent hire of unqualified drivers, negligent retention of unsafe drivers, and negligent inspection, maintenance, and repair of the trucks.
If the liability insurance company for the motor carrier took on the task of screening new hire truck drivers, and an unqualified or unsafe truck driver is hired and causes a wreck, then the insurance company may be liable for its negligent screening of drivers. If the truck’s cargo shifts or falls from the truck or trailer, then the shipper may be liable for negligent cargo securement. If a truck broker arranges for a load to be transported by an unqualified or unsafe motor carrier, then the broker may be liable for negligent hire of that motor carrier.
What Must a Driver of a Big Truck Know to be Qualified to Drive?
The federal motor carrier safety regulations require commercial motor vehicle drivers who drive interstate to know 20 areas of knowledge. These areas of knowledge include safe operation regulations, safe vehicle control systems, commercial motor vehicle safety control systems, basic controls, shifting, backing, visual search, communication, speed management, space management, night operation, extreme driving conditions, hazards perception, emergency maneuvers, skid control and recovery, relationship of cargo to vehicle control, vehicle inspections, hazardous materials, mountain driving, and fatigue and awareness.
What Should I Do if I or a Loved One is Seriously Injured in a Big Truck Crash That I Did Not Cause?
You should immediately contact and hire an experienced and knowledgeable truck crash attorney. This is important for various reasons. Much of the evidence to prove your case may be lost if it is not quickly preserved. The attorney can hire an accident reconstruction expert to investigate the crash, take road surface skid mark or gouge mark measurements, download the truck engine’s electronic control module data and event data recorder information, and take scene photographs. The attorney can hire an investigator to locate and take witness statements, and to locate and secure traffic and area camera videos. The attorney should send an immediate spoliation warning letter to the driver, motor carrier, and insurance company demanding that the truck and trailer not be moved or repaired until your experts can inspect the truck. Also, that letter will demand that the motor carrier preserve all records, travel documents, hours-of-service log book data, GPS and navigation data, and all other evidence relevant to driver qualification, motor carrier safety compliance, and vehicle inspection and maintenance.
What Else Will My Truck Crash Attorney Do?
The attorney will gather other relevant information to prove the case including police crash reports, police crash photos, police dash cam videos, 911 audio files and records, FMCSA motor carrier data, fire department reports, PUCO reports, EPA reports, news media videos, and weather data. Normally, a lawsuit should be filed promptly to identify all potential defendants and preserve evidence. If necessary, the attorney can seek a court order that the defendant motor carrier or other parties preserve the truck, trailer, and the electronic data. The truck crash attorney will request relevant documents, submit written questions called interrogatories to the opposing parties, and conduct discovery depositions of the truck driver, the motor carrier’s safety director, and other key persons in the case.